Children are often told not what to do. We are more likely to emphasize their behaviors and their negative choices since those behaviors disrupt
our routine and get our attention. Most of the time, we are entirely unaware of this pattern. Let’s see why that happens and how we can help our children to improve their behavior by grounding (and we don’t mean the “no TV for a week” kind).
Children almost always act the way they feel. If your child is defiant or struggles with impulse control, they are more likely to hear primarily negative comments and feedback throughout their day. This negative feedback makes them feel bad about themselves or frustrated at others, combined with cascading negative brain chemicals and pathways engaging those negative centers and causing them to continue to act defiantly. As a parent, you see this as resistance, stubbornness, and poor choices.
Where do I start?
The first step is being aware and accepting this as a pattern. Be aware of yourself to make sure you are not coming to the table emotionally charged. We parents have to ground ourselves to model the behavior we want to see and, in turn, ground our children. They mimic our energy and are usually escalated by it as well.
What does grounding mean?
As kids, we all experienced being grounded- when we were in trouble. What we are talking about here is different. This type of grounding is positive and meant to help improve behaviors instead of punishing them. Being grounded is being mindful of your body and feeling connected to the Earth and your senses. It involves taking time to pause, take ourselves out of the spinning world around us and pay attention to slow movement. Fall is a fantastic time to work on grounding. Nature is getting ready to hibernate; the leaves’ colors are changing, and the weather tends to be cooler.
Fall can also mean a fuller schedule. The transition back to a routine and activities can feel overwhelming after the laid-back nature of summer. If this change is overwhelming for us, how do you think our children feel? Each September brings a new school year, a new classroom, new kids, and a new teacher. Imagine starting a new job every fall with a new boss, new co-workers, and new responsibilities. Yikes! All of this newness can be difficult for their brains to handle and lead to children becoming overwhelmed, overstimulated, and ungrounded.
Try this at home
Allow your child to come home to a safe place and be themselves. Give them a space to disconnect, unwind and calm themselves. Please note! This does not mean giving them a screen. While they may ask for gaming or that level of disconnection-this only fires their neurological systems more, leaving them craving more and the high levels of dopamine in their brains.
Slow routines, walking home from school, and experiencing nature are ways to ground. Allow your kids time to play outside, talk to them after school, drive home with the windows open. Enroll them in physical activities they enjoy or that take place outside. Offer them time to play with friends that do not involve a screen. Take them to a playground or on a hike. Have them walk to and from school if possible.
Let’s take a look closer to home- literally. If an outsider watched your morning or evening routine, how would they describe what they saw? Is there a lot of yelling? Stress? Rushing? Tears? If so, think of ways you can plan ahead or delegate tasks to others, so you are not rushing around. Having systems in place can keep you organized and limit the chaos. Including the kids will help them feel empowered, in control, and like they are contributing to the success of the morning/evening.
While we can’t slow our world completely, we can take moments before school to breathe and appreciate calm moments. Then, we can focus more on the positive times, the positive choices, and our children’s daily accomplishments. This will bring them back to their bodies and allow them to feel proud, confident, and grounded.